The situation in Kabul on 15 August was very tense. The Taliban had already taken control of all provinces except for Kabul and Panjshir.
As usual, I went to my office at 9 in the morning. I was instructed to go to Kabul Military Airport to cover a special security meeting of the Kabul Military Command. At the meeting, General Sami Sadat, commander of the Kabul’s protecting forces, announced that he would defend from Kabul. Kabul security forces decided to carry out ground and air attacks on the Taliban, but they had already reached the gates of Kabul.
I was getting ready to go to the office to cover the meeting, when word of the escape of former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani was whispered. The news was a rumor and no official source had confirmed it, but the spread of such news had a great impact on the situation in Kabul.
The panic and disappointment were easily visible in the faces of people, and at that time, I thought that the agony and tragedy would never end for Afghans.
I worked as a reporter for a private television station. By the time I got to the office, all parts of it were closed. The office guards asked us to leave the office. My colleagues and I did not have the opportunity to collect our belongings. The situation was chaotic and everyone was panicking. The pavements were full of people.
I had to walk over 8km to get home. On my way there was a 400-bed army hospital, and I saw the patients, most of whom were wounded, fleeing in hospital shirts. My mother, who was worried about me, called me more than 20 times that day.
It was a black day, where millions of Afghans buried their dreams. That day we understood with heart and soul the bitter meaning of failure. That evening, Ashraf Ghani’s escape from Afghanistan was confirmed. Afghanistan’s war and security ministers had also left the country, and security forces were forced to drop their guns.
The next day, when social media and the media reported the evacuation of hundreds of Afghan citizens through Kabul Airport, thousands of Afghans gathered around the airport and wanted to leave the country. Dozens of citizens died in the airport chaos, and even young Afghans hung themselves on the planes – although they knew their deaths were certain, they wanted to escape from the Taliban by any means.
In those days, my mother’s home-cooked food did not have the usual taste. Everyone forgot to eat and sleep. Afghanistan’s domestic media did not have coverage and foreign media did not have enough resources to cover all the news; the only source of information for me and all the people of Afghanistan in those days was social media.
The Taliban gradually consolidated their forces in Kabul, and only the Panjshir province continued to fight them. Panjshir was the only hope of the Afghan people, but it was eventually captured by the Taliban. We returned to the office three days after the fall, and I was assigned to prepare a report on the evacuation of Afghan nationals. When we went to Kabul Airport, the Taliban beat me and my colleague and took my camera.
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I stayed in Afghanistan for about seven months after the Taliban came to power. The crackdown on protests, the detention and torture of journalists, the detention of female protesters and the unprecedented restrictions on the media convinced me to finally leave Afghanistan on 1 April 2022.
Now I am in Pakistan and facing financial problems, like many other journalists. When I arrived, I contacted all the international organizations that support journalists and asked for help. Some of these institutions refused to help me, and some of those who promised to help still haven’t provided any assistance.
There are many institutions around the world that have budgets in the name of journalists and say they support journalists. For me, it is gradually becoming clear that many of these institutions are just learning to chant slogans and that is enough. There are many journalists like me who live in very difficult situations and spend their daily lives in despair.
Now that I am in Pakistan, it is not clear what will happen to me in the future. I cannot return to my country, I just hope that no human being will suffer the pain of homelessness like me.
Rafiullah Nikzad is a journalist and human rights activist
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.